12. Story

Then, there I was. Just as I am today. Now, here I am. Just as I was, then.

To say that something was different now (then) would be to misinterpret what had happened (happens). As I said, this car adventure may have been just before or just after “that day that altered everything.”

Parlor tricks and puzzles on white boards are the content that I remember from the presentation.

Paris in the spring…

This guy Joe came into my sister’s house. Seemed like a reasonable fellow, ruffled slightly greying hair, slightly unkempt business suit, personable and relatable. He set up whatever there was to set up and got to talking. I don’t remember anything of what he talked about but I do remember he brought a small white board or maybe a large presentation pad of paper with him and he placed it on an easel and at some point he drew the image above on that white board/pad. He asked one of us to tell him what it said, and I did. Duh, that’s easy. I know how to read. After all, I know stuff and I’ll show you.

Now today, he may have used something more like this video to make this particular point, or not. (This video was used to make this point in one of my classes where I ultimately became a Master).

When I watched the video I’m pretty sure I counted the basketball passes correctly, and I’m pretty sure I read the words in the triangle correctly. Then, the reveal of my selective attention came. I stood up, there in my sister’s living room, and I pointed to each of the words including the XOXOX. Now point out each letter in each of the words. …E…T…Oh.

Maybe the “reality” that I think I see is only a pattern, something that my mind recalls seeing before, so that when I see something similar my mind “does the rest” – fills in the blank, glances over a few “minor” details. OK. I’m listening. Maybe a little closer now.

Then, after some additional not remembered conversational content this widely known (today) 9 dots puzzle was put on the whiteboard. Without lifting the pen, connect the 9 dots using four lines.

Limited options in my “thinking”

Now (then), I was only 19 years old. I didn’t have much exposure to “the world” despite what I thought. So the term may have been in wide use at the time, but I’m fairly certain it was not. Some time after encountering this puzzle I heard the word paradigm for the first time. Didn’t know a thing about paradigms. And then, to find out I was existing within a paradigm. Well, that was a surprise. Later on I’d read about world views and terministic screens and context and matrices and social constructionism and I would add information or knowledge into my store of knowledge about those things. But this nine dots puzzle – it was a surprise, especially within the context (that I didn’t know was a context) of all that talking that was happening that I don’t really remember at all. Learning the answer to this nine dots puzzle wasn’t some piece of knowing something like reading or being told about a concept and then understanding that concept.

It was experiencing the thing for itself. It was an unconcealing. A reveal. Paris in the spring and nine dots. Parlor tricks and puzzles. So I was interested now (then), paying attention in some new way a little closer than I had been. When I say “experiencing the thing for itself” I was now seeing some part of the role I played (I play) in determining what I thought was reality. See I thought (think) that reality was (is). Just that it is. It is reality. In fact, I KNEW (KNOW) that reality IS. Now this charlatan, this magician, this humble and calm, lightly rumpled guy named Joe had me seeing all sorts of things that I hadn’t seen before that just maybe, like a gorilla, had been there all along.

Yet I wasn’t thinking about any of that at the time. I had no language to describe any of that. I didn’t even know how I’d ended up in that conversation…didn’t remember any of it anyway.

I was workin’ on a mystery. Goin’ wherever it leads.

11. Story

New action, the kind that starts to really shake things up and gets you moving in a new direction may be directly related to the degree that you are willing to engage with new ideas. New ideas doesn’t necessarily relate to that normal casual thinking that one does where thoughts flow in and out of one’s “mind”. If you’ve ever had a new idea you may have pondered the thought of where it came from. I don’t know where they come from but I like the unanswerable aspect of the question, “Where do ideas come from?” New idea or not, the question alone brings up more questions. Into the rabbit hole.

Given the gift of knowledge and having Unlimited Power (isn’t half of Unlimited Power still Unlimited Power?) put me in a great position to make something happen. I was open to and having new ideas, I was registered for fall classes and at the same time, being a good red-blooded American boy I had a big problem…I had no car.

Sitting around the old coffee house late one night, me and my man Del hatched a plan to resolve that problem. Now Del, he was much more of a car guy than I was and hanging around him I started thinking that I was a car guy too. I had a little Oldsmobile affinity brewed up after driving around in that sweet Cutlass Supreme for a couple of years. I’m not sure where I received my information prior to the existence of the Interwebs but I had it on good authority that a 1973 Cutlass Supreme was just the model I was looking for. It was a little quirky with that thin front bumper and grill running top to bottom (under/through the bumper) and those sweet, cut into the body long tail lights. And now that I think of it, it was those Auto Trader magazines and classified ads in the newspaper that gave me most of my knowledge, aside from hearing stuff from all those car guys that I knew and general observation about what was driving around town.

One chronic problem that seemed to come up with me finding a decent ’73 Cutlass was the effect that salt and Cleveland winters seemed to have on car bodies. Finding a ’73 Cutlass in my price range (Super Cheap), that still ran and wasn’t a rust bucket was going to be a problem. Then through conversation over coffee, doing some form of brainstorming, me and Del hatched a plan.

We’d heard about all these old runners down south that made their way up north with solid bodies on account of having no real sort of winter down thar. Now summa these cars had some issues on accounta the heat. Sure the bodies on these boys was nice and solid but the interiors may have been sun bleached or dry rotted. Same thing for any of them landau roofs you may have had…vinyl or leather don’t matter none…the dry rot was gone git ya from the sun. Engines run hot down thar too. High temps are the norm and these boys is gonna have some gasket dry rot issues on the engines or other some such kind of problems.

That’s what we heard anyway. But you could get a solid body real cheap. Southern bodies…oh the glory of it.

We picked a destination. South, mild winters, not too hot so you don’t git the dry rot too much. Not too near the ocean so you don’t get that salty air…I don’t even know if that’s accurate to this day that it would have any effect but that was the logic at the time. We was gonna go to Charlotte and each of us buy us a Southern Car. These Southern Cars, they were legendary back in the day. All nice and rust free comin’ up here from down south and fetchin’ high prices on resale. I wasn’t going to sell this one though, once I found it – hell no, I was going to keep it and start making everything good again.

I didn’t think of it that way, consciously anyway, since I wasn’t really aware that life could be good/bad based on choices I made or that I really had anything to do with it. I really thought that life just happened to you. This was different though. And again, the timeline here is a little hazy – was this before or after “that day that altered everything”? It may have been just before, it may have been just after. Certainly the scheming my way out of this hole had already begun over coffee. This was different though.

I said something. I promised it. I had “given my word” and “invented a future” “in the face of (mostly) no agreement“. I was going to go to Charlotte North Carolina, was going to find a car in my price range (Super Cheap), and I was going to buy it. All within about 3 days time which is all my budget would allow. This was going to happen.

Was I worried that it would work out? Yep. Was I worried that I’d find a car in that time frame? Yep. Something was different though. I’d put something at stake. I’d put my a$$ on the line.

Baby, watch me move.

Now, me and Del was gonna go down there together and both do the same thing (though Del was looking for a Laguna package Malibu – a much rarer breed). We had logistical issues though. He had to work, I had little money. Flying for me was out of the question – I’d spend half of my budget on the ticket. Leaving work a day early for him was out of the question.

My mother loves me and she must love an adventure. She agreed to go with us on this mostly hair brained idea to buy a Southern car. Me and Mom would drive down in her car and once we got there we’d pick up Del at the airport when he flew in after work. That would give me half a day or so extra to pick up some local classifieds and start narrowing down the prospects. What my Mother did could be called “being a supportive Mother”. Maybe she was just worried that I’d get taken for $300 bucks like I did in Virginia Beach that time a couple of years prior. What I would call it today, after retelling the story and going over the gift that she gave me would be…”My mother provided a space within her listening for an unpredictable future to arise.” She never really questioned the soundness of the idea. She didn’t judge it, or assess it. She didn’t tell me that it would or wouldn’t work out. She listened. She heard the vision of the future I was creating through my speaking and let it be. In that space, that listening, (and the action that supported the listening) she helped me pull off the first of many victories.

The trip, for the most part, was pretty uneventful and went down, for the most part, exactly as planned.

I likely should have bought the ’73 Camaro. From a classic car perspective I probably could have gotten a better resale on it down the road. It was pretty solid from what I remember, maybe had a ding in one of the doors that I thought would be hard to replace and it may have had some high mileage. Mostly, we looked at it first and I had to see this Cutlass that was a little farther out of town.

We were out in big sky territory, rolling country Carolina hills blue and green all around. I swore I’d always remember his name, but having not thought about it for a while, alas I’ve forgotten. Billy Joe, or Joey Bill or Jimmy Bob or something you’d expect a North Carolina farmer to be called. Out there under the blue sky off the side of the blacktop road on the front of the driveway up to the farmhouse he told us about this ’73, how his son drove it into a ditch one night being reckless. That’s why it had that ’75 front end on her. He spoke in that Southern drawl, real slow…making me impatient slow. We opened the hood and it looked good, no leaks…started right up and it sounded good with that dual exhaust. Just a slight rumble with that 350 rocket popping 8 cylinders in a well timed orchestra. We looked at the body and it was solid. Like every story you ever heard about them Southern cars being real clean. Not a speck of rust on her. It wasn’t pure but since “Armageddon” (my first Cutlass that some kind fellow borrowed from me to assist me on my journey of redemption) was a ’75 I didn’t mind the front end. And the hood had those awesome fake air intake louvers on it. For $650 and with 3 days to shop I’d have to concede some things.

I gave him the money. He gave me the keys and signed the title over. I asked him if it was fast. “Oh, it’ll git.”, he said.

It did. I tried it out as I headed up 77 from Charlotte to Cleveland, with my Mom following behind.

I felt so good, like anything was possible. Runnin’ down a dream.

10. Story

Story is about “my” story. The events and actions (or in-actions) that I experienced and my framing and then re-framing them 30 years later. The story has no intrinsic value and likely will be read by very few. Even if read by millions it’s long term impact is likely to be limited at best. One of the thoughts I’ve been pondering for several years is the notion that mostly, fairly widely even, my life and the life of the many billions of people like or similar to me will never be known. These lives and the impact they’ve had will rarely be legendary. If you look back upon the recorded history of humankind so few are remembered after thousands of years, perhaps a few more after hundreds of years and maybe several more during the direct reach backward or forward of a lifetime. Given my youthful penchant for musical icons, as an example I say who will remember, really, David Bowie, Prince, Michael Jackson, Freddie Mercury, Tupac, Beastie Boys, dare I say even Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd, (insert your favorite recently deceased icon of popular culture here) etc. in a couple of hundred years? Keith Richards maybe? What I’ve been pondering about that is that it is actually good news. Maybe we don’t need to live such carefully orchestrated lives? Maybe we can stretch out a little, make ourselves uncomfortable and make others uncomfortable?

Deep down (wherever deep down is – it’s not really deep anywhere, I think. It’s actually concealed just below the surface. The surface of what, exactly? Good question? Where is this deep down? I can’t find it. Where is this surface?) we likely know the essential meaninglessness of our lives. Mostly this manifests itself in a sort of resignation or cynicism and general hostility. We cover it up, or do our best to, so we can participate in day to day life without being shunned. Like putting lipstick on a pig.

This is just something I’ve been considering. If it bothers you, take consolation in knowing that it will be forgotten very soon.

One aspect of my experience that I do not often acknowledge or make known is my Catholic faith. As I type I consider why that is, and ignore it for later consideration. For now let’s say I am a “cradle Catholic” in the Roman Catholic tradition. This looks like baptism near birth and Catholic grade school attendee through the 8th grade with mostly weekly mass, and twice weekly during the school year. This set of belief can mostly be summarized in the Nicene Creed. How a set of “beliefs” and practices shapes one and their actions is always interesting to consider and provides plenty of fodder for many thousand word essays…perhaps another day.

Following my 8th grade graduation from grade school I was slated to head off to public high school. Freed from the bonds of institutionalized indoctrination, what would become of me and my relationship to faith? Interestingly, I know today that I am a Catholic based on some choices that I made. Perhaps the indoctrination was successful enough to have me continue on this path and make those choices, perhaps I really chose, perhaps there really is no choice because it’s all just a pre-determined already known and unalterable fate or destiny. Either way, it occurs to me that one of these choices was also a part of the opening to create an opening.

Knowing something, or “being able” to develop some knowing may sometimes require some prior knowing. As we often learn multiplication only after learning addition many knowings are incremental and based on prior knowing. Experiential learning may require some a priori knowing, or not, and in my path of experience the knowing was “of the space”. Knowing that there may be a place where knowing is more likely to occur – like a wondering or a questioning or an allowing for. Rather than a having the answer of. My route to that allowing for a space was a charismatic renewal prayer session where I had hands layed upon me and received the Holy Spirit. As a Catholic, this occurs at baptism, and again at confirmation technically and officially and this charismatic is another manifestation of that…the same, but different. A different expression.

Aunt Sylvia had been going to these events for a while from what I knew and at some point my sister and brother-in-law began going to these every Friday or every other Friday events. I allowed for the un-explainable in my faith much more than I did in my day to day life where knowing things, or at least acting like I did, was the rule. After all, I had been to a Seminary camp the summer after my 8th grade and prior to high school. (Mostly because I’d always wanted to go to some camp). I had been participating in “teen renewal” at my church parish (Mostly because my friends were also participating and then because I realized how many girls were participating in these things). And I had continued attending weekly mass, mostly, during my less institutionalized high school years. I allowed for the miraculous…thought that it could occur and that I didn’t have to understand it.

Even with half of Anthony Robbins Unlimited Power I still had nothing going on. My sister, or brother-in-law, or both invited me to go to this charismatic thing. I don’t think I had a car yet, and I certainly had no money since I didn’t have a job, so I didn’t really have anything else to do. I went once, maybe twice. Observed. Saw people speaking in tongues, wondered if they really were, wondered what they were doing. Saw some people maybe falling over after having hands layed upon them ala “You are saved!”…faint. Again, I think I just trusted some people. Eventually, maybe after the 3rd or 4th visit to this weekly or bi-weekly event, I tried it out.

I got in that line, sort of like getting in line for communion. I waited, nervously. Wondered what would happen. Would I turn into some “Jesus freak”? Evangelizing all over, trying to convert savages to the light of truth? Would I be speaking in tongues and driven to madness? There are seven gifts of the Holy Spirit according to the Catholic tradition. “Nothing” happened that I could see. I tried to speak in tongues, faked it mostly because that’s what everybody else was doing. It didn’t seem fake, and it didn’t seem real.

What happens in those moments between when the light is off, and when the light is on? When the eyes refocus and start to see what could not be seen before? It’s more noticeable as the sun (also) rises, as darkness gradually turns to day, as Mauna Kea comes into view as the jet lag keeps you awake.

This gradual seeing, and having knowledge that there is something to be seen – something that may and likely will – come in to view is what it was like to me. The gift of knowledge of the Holy Spirit – not immediate knowing, for me – but the knowledge of all knowledge. Maybe a little like what wikipedia says. Not immediate, but immediate enough that there was an opening – a space. Today I would refer to it as the possibility of knowing. Where knowing is a possibility, a space for what’s possible to occur.

My best image – Consider this link for clarity

With this gift, perhaps I was ready to listen and hear.

9. Story

Steve called me as I hoped he would. He thanked me for the advice. I thanked him for listening, being open. He trusted me enough, trusted “something” enough – whatever it is to trust. I shared my experience, he listened. He told me about his renewed relationship with his brother, he told me that he’d been busy talking with all of the people in his life. He sounded alive on the phone. Vibrant and whole. I listened, wondered what stories Steve would tell in 30 years as a result of having taken my advice.

It’s risky business when somebody asks for your advice, and you give them your best piece of advice, and they take it. You want it to work out for them, in their own way, as well as it worked out for you. In this case, the risk was limited. I didn’t know Steve 10 weeks ago. I had no attachment to any outcome. It wouldn’t obviously affect me if it didn’t work out, other than a little diminished confidence in my best advice. Would I give that advice again as my best advice? It seems to have worked out. The rest is up to Steve.

That risk brings us back to 30 years ago. I wasn’t as open as Steve. “Don’t ever talk to me about that again”…remember. Before there was an opening, there had to be an opening for an opening to occur. There had to be a willingness to risk. There had to be something I was willing to put at stake. In a way, I had nothing to lose.

I‘d been hanging out at my sister’s a lot. I had nothing going on after all. I was like that guy on the radio commercials who got busted for drunk driving. I had no job, had no girl, had no car – for a little while anyway. So I’d go to my sister’s and hang out. It must have felt safe there. I picked up a book one day that my brother-in-law had lying around and started reading. Prior to picking up this book I’m not certain that I’d ever even considered the notion of power. Didn’t even really know what that meant. It was right there on the cover – Unlimited Power. Tony Robbins’ first book – he went by Anthony at the time.

This may be the book I picked up.

I never did finish the book. I have started reading it again to recall what it was that may have been expanding my thinking. I’ll finish it this time. The fact that I never finished the book at the time is irrelevant. It created an opening. New concepts or new ability to see or perceive. Perhaps a new ability to listen in a new way that hadn’t been there before. While Robbins very quickly touches on the fact that there is no inherent meaning in life other than the meaning you give it the topic that I remembered most about this book was the notion of modeling somebody’s behavior if you wanted to produce similar results. If they had X, model the behavior and state that they embodied to get X and you will produce similar results.

At some point I lost interest in the book. I have been struggling to get through the same place where I lost interest then, even now. The sections on Neuro-Linguistic Programming seemed too much like “tips” for my taste. Today, Wikipedia tells me that NLP has been discredited. I’m not sure I would go that far – there are elements to the concepts that still jive with my experience. Nonetheless, the sections to me were a bit gimmicky – like trying to connive response out of people. Not quite what I was seeking – even though I didn’t know that I was seeking anything.

This idea of modeling, while also a bit gimmicky did make sense to me though. The notion that we’re all in essence wired the same as human beings…that none of us are completely lacking or completely better suited to produce similar results, that seemed clear. All I had to do then was find somebody that had produced the results that I wanted in life then model their attitude, behavior, style, thinking, actions…and I could have the same results.

My point of view was still very limited unfortunately. The examples that I had for “pinnacles of success” were limited as well. As far as I was concerned, only a year earlier I’d already reached the pinnacle of success that I could comprehend. After all, I’d had a decent full time job, a sweet ride, and a running car too. All that was gone.

Luckily, like I’ve said…I had plans. All of that working man stuff was temporary anyway. Coming out of high school I always said that I was going to work for a year, save a bunch of money and then go back to school in the fall. College – that was something a few people I knew had done, and we’re doing. It was time to stop moping around and get in action. I never saved all that money, but sometime that summer I walked down Euclid Avenue and registered for fall classes just like I said I was going to do.

Big plans…I’ll show you. My friend Tony says that the words I used, when scoffed at by that former girlfriend, “Baby, watch me move.”